Kimberly Davin-DeGraff, a.k.a. Kimmy Suki, has a gift for rallying the community to help people in need. We talked to this long-time expat to find out what makes her tick.
Where are your from originally and what brought you to Mérida?
I am from the San Joaquin Valley in central California. I came with my ex-business partner, who is also my ex-husband, to work one year in Merida in a chiropractic clinic, and to learn Spanish. We came with our two children, one cat and one dog. We all fell in love with Mérida and never left. That was 12 years ago this September.
You seem to have an amazing ability to find needs in the community that the rest of us aren’t aware of. How do you find these folks?
I met two great women who opened many doors and my eyes to the needs here in the Yucatán. One is Tami Stout, a lovely mother from the States who is married to a Mexican and has lived here a long time. The other is Gina Dogre with the government agency Sedesol. These two woman are angels. Somehow or another these two guide or help me on all projects.
You seem to be passionate about helping others. Was this something you did prior to making Mérida home?
Well, I have always served people in some form or another. When I was young I became a firefighter, then a EMT basic life support, then a paramedic. My ex partner and I would go to the pueblos here in the Yucatán eight to 10 years ago and give free chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy to injured people who couldn’t come into Mérida. In these pueblos many don’t even speak Spanish.
How do you balance your personal life and your volunteer work?
I will say that with three children, a thriving business and six dogs I wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that I do, but with the support of my fiancé John Carney and the support of my three kids I am blessed with lots of time. They make it possible for me to do this.
I see you recently started a Facebook group Yucatan Giving. How does Facebook factor into the success of meeting the needs of the community?
Facebook has helped me spread the word. It isn’t reaching as far as I would like but I am confident that if Facebook continues to be a main portal in social media, the group and the needs met will grow.
The whole idea of putting out a need and having people answer that need seems perfectly simple.
Is there any chance the group will develop beyond Facebook?
I am hoping and investing time into growing the group beyond Facebook a little. Each time I sit down to start I think rather than spending time doing it I would rather be oiling wheelchairs or giving hugs to the 280 children at Caimede [a state-run shelter for children].
We saw that you recently managed to raise enough funds for an electric hospital bed for a gentleman in dire need. You opted to “loan” the bed until it is no longer needed. That’s a great idea. Any plans for expanding on that?
Lots of plans to expand on that. I am hoping to open a corporation that will have a bodega full of helpful items and a transparent bank account where all proceeds and items go to directly enrich someones quality of life.
Have you ever had to turn down a request for help?
I haven’t and won’t, haha. Expanding on that, all my request fulfilled are from the people directly. Not the administration of the location. I have fulfilled and am working directly with the administrators and caretakers but truly i am working for the people.
When you’re not out there making a difference, what do you do for fun? We’re hoping it involves at least an adult beverage or two.
That’s easy: Time with my family and polo.
What is one thing you’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t yet?
Skydiving. hahah Terrified, yet would love to do it.
Visit Yucatan Giving to help others in your community.
Originally from New York’s Hudson Valley, Melissa Adler lives in Mérida’s Centro Histórico.